Electric Grandmother

Maggie Croft's Personal Journal young spirit, wire-wrapped
spark electric grandmother
arc against the night

-- Lon Prater
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canning season

Avadore, LD and I picked pears and plums today. It won't be long before we're picking apples.

There will be canning this week. Lots of pears to blanche, peel, core and slice, put in bottles, cover with boiling sugar water and then heat until the bottles seal. There's not a ton of plums, though. Those will be eaten fresh.

Every year my grandmother grew a gigantic garden with everything from tomatoes to carrots to dill to potatoes to green beans to horseraddish... She also had apple trees, apricot trees, a cherry tree, a plum tree, strawberries, raspberries and a goosberry bush. Grandpa was a farmer, so while she and the kids or grandkids or whoever else were out hoeing beets or cutting the hay, Grandma (and whoever else) would be making pickles or chili sauce or canning apples or making new peas, carrots and potatoes with a cream sauce.

When their kids were still at home my grandparents also had cattle and a barn. Every morning the kids would get up at five and milk the cows. Dad says he learned how to swear from Grandpa working with the cattle. (Grandma says she doesn't believe it -- she never heard Grandpa swear a day in his life.1)They also had a chicken coop2 with chickens to lay eggs and make soup out of or roast for supper.

Almost all the land in any direction, almost as far as the eye could see, was Grandpa's, and had been his father's before. About this time of year, before the hay was cut, the fields were blanketed with golden grain that would wave as the perpetual southern Idaho wind moved over it.

Grandpa died the first week of April in 2001. Grandma cracked her hip last month. She doesn't live in the old house anymore, which is another description entirely with its nooks and crannies for playing hide and seek and the hopscotch squares in the basement and other things. Currently she's staying at a long-term care facility until she's back on her feet.

A couple of weeks ago a fire started in the kitchen of the old house. Grandma was letting a man stay there and he took care of the house and the land and did yard work for my aunt and grandma in exchange for the place to live. It sounds like he got a little careless one day. The windows shattered and the cabinets (the new ones Grandpa had custom made) are ruined. Grandma says she's glad she wasn't there to see it.

So, at the center of this ramble, is me being a little homesick for the autumn of my youth. I miss the smoke in the air, seeing Grandpa burning the fields, following the sugarbeet trucks down the road before school, and Grandma laying up the stores for winter.

So I will lay up my own stores for my little family, and wish that my kids could have seen the farm before it was covered with houses, when the fields were still covered with grain and the trees were still pregnant with fruit, the land covered with vegetables.

1It's not unusual for the men around here who would never think of cussing around the women folk or in polite company will say all sorts of things to a cow. One of my husband's cousins was shocked when her new husband, mild of speech and manner, exposed her to several new words while herding cattle one morning.

2This would be the same chicken coop my uncle grew pot in during the 60's after the my grandmother started buying her eggs from the chicken farm down the road and the chickens were bought from the market.

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